New Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins took calls on WAMC’s Vox Pop program Tuesday to discuss law enforcement. While he was on the air, there was a new development in one high-profile case involving the department.
In July, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced that Southfield, Michigan Police Chief Eric Hawkins was her pick to become the new chief in Albany. In the days that followed, Hawkins met with members of the media and the community, saw his appointment confirmed by the Common Council, moved into the city and began work.
Ray Graf: "How much culture shock have you had trying to acclimate to Albany?"
Chief Hawkins: "You know actually it hasn't been too bad. A lot of similarities between Albany and the city I came from just outside of Detroit, and it's been a pleasant experience so far."
Hawkins entertained listener questions about law enforcement on the call-in show.
Caller: "How do you keep the officers engaged to do their jobs?'
Chief Hawkins: "The most important thing is making sure that I as chief and the upper ranks in the police department, the executive staff, treat our officers like we want our officers to treat the members and the residents and the visitors in our community."
Caller : "Do you think that the education and pay (I know I'm puttin' you out on a limb) has really kept up with the demands of what police officers are expected to do out there in the manner that you really seem to be espousing?"
Chief Hawkins: "You can ask any leader in most industries and they'll probably say that their folks are underpaid and overworked, and I certainly feel that way about police officers. There are so many expectations on police officers, you almost have to have the equivalent of a law school education in order to do basic police work nowadays, you know you have to know constitutional law and all these different sorts of things and we're expecting this from 18- and 19-year-olds."
Hawkins addressed a listener question about police-shootings: "I can tell you the overwhelming majority of the time when these officers are involved in use-of-force situations, they're using the appropriate amount of force and they're doing it in a conscientious way."
While Hawkins was on the air, Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice, announced that the Center sent a letter to Albany County District Attorney David Soares asking him to recuse his office from investigating the August 20th Albany police-shooting of 19-year-old Ellazar Williams, who was paralyzed. "We're asking him to recuse himself, and hopefully there will be a special prosecutor who will investigate the shooting itself and make some determination about whether there's been some criminal actions carried out by the Detective, Olsen."
A copy of the letter in which Green cites conflicting reports by the APD, video evidence, and what she calls the "close working relationship between the DA’s office and Detective James Olsen," the police officer who shot Williams, as reasons for the request, was sent to Attorney General Barbara Underwood. Her office responded to a request for comment by email, saying "The Attorney General’s jurisdiction under Executive Order 147 is specific to cases in which an unarmed civilian dies during an encounter with police."
You can read the Executive Order here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/old-files//EO147.pdf
Soares’ office didn’t respond to a request for comment. Green's letter is reproduced below: